Chook’s Rooks: Round 9

Want to know what made the kid on the anti-smoking ad get his grizzle on? Chook has the answer, and it wasn’t Scott Gumbleton’s third sub-40 score of the season, as sad as that was.

As dad to a little fella myself, it kills me to watch the three-year-old kid in the anti-cancer stick ad bawl his eyes out at the train station.  Like most, I’d assumed he got himself so worked up because he couldn’t find his mum, but a little bit of research reveals the true story. I spoke with the producer of the ad who said the boy had maxed-out rookies like Lewis Jetta and Anthony Morabito in his midfield, as well as Ben Nason and Scott Gumbleton leaking cash in his backs and forwards. “The dude clearly needed to make some downgrades,” the producer said, “so all I had to do was show him the list of one and two-gamers coming through and he cried for a week.” I feel his pain. There are rookies peaking all over the place and hardly a yelp of help on the horizon, especially in the midfield. Some coaches are even considering downgrading to yet-to-debut $77kers, just to pocket the cash from their fattened-up cash cows. To see just how bad the situation has become, let’s move on to the three-or-more gamers.

Three-or-more gamers

With more rookies in the red zone (higher breakeven than average) this week than any previous week, it’s obvious that many of the kids from our original line-ups have served their time and are ready to be shipped off. Popular picks like Tom Scully (BE 104, avg 72), Gumbleton (BE 79, avg 56), Jack Trengove (BE 78, avg 75), Alex Silvagni (BE 62, avg 64), Dustin Martin (BE 55, avg 62) and Nason (BE 53, avg 61) have breakevens higher or just below their averages. Of course, last week I was rabbiting on about the big drop about to be suffered by Brisbane’s Todd Banfield before he busted out a ton and sent his BE spiralling back down to 44. They’re unpredictable beasts, these rookies.

Aside from Banfield, the best scores came from both surprising and unsurprising sources, with Fremantle forward Nathan Fyfe outscoring his previous best by 33 points to rack up a Warnie-like (the cricket one, not the legendary DT one) 99 not out, while his teammate Michael Barlow was his typically awesome self by compiling a lusty 97. Midfield pair Ben Howlett and Jack Trengove also reached the 90s, while there were 80s all around for forward threesome Cameron Hitchcock, James Podsiadly and Jarrad Grant.

Two gamers

To avoid getting into fights, Barry Hall needs Velcro footy boots. To avoid losing cash, we need decent downgrade options. It doesn’t look like either is likely, especially if it’s the midfield or backs that you need to make the trade. In the two-gamer category, we normally have a bunch of young bucks on the precipice of their first gigantic price rise, but it’s slim pickings this week, to be honest. Three of the four players in the shop window are forwards, and the other – Wayde Skipper – is a ruck, so no point bothering with him. Of the aforementioned forwards, St Kilda’s Nick Heyne has moderate-to-poor future job prospects, with guys like fringe-dwellers Armitage, Geary and Eddy hoping to force their way back in, and has scored lowly at any rate with a 40 and 35 to date, while Henry Playfair is surely no more than a placeholder for Daniel Bradshaw at Sydney. You’d expect Josh Smith (or Jesse White even) would be putting pressure on Playfair to hold his spot even before Bradshaw returns from his three-week knee injury anyway. If it’s security you want, Melbourne’s penultimate no.1 pick is probably your best bet, but you’ll have to pay extra to bring Jack Watts on board. Watts has impressed far more in his sophomore season than he did last year, but costs $145k, which means you’ll clear just $83k if you’re downgrading Gumbleton, for instance. While that’s not usually considered sufficient profit to sacrifice a trade, it might just have to do for those wanting to ditch Tadgh Kennelly for Ryan Hargrave or Sam Fisher before their prices leap, or those simply fed up with the diarrhea being dished up by Gumby on a regular basis (yeah, I realise his shit was a point better than Brown’s round-nine skidmark).

One gamers

When it rains it pours is a pretty daft cliché, but it’s gone past midnight so I’m done being clever. The point? There’s a flood of forwards at the moment, with three of the five rookie-priced players to debut in round nine listed as FWDs by the DT gods. They were Jack Gunston ($89k) at Adelaide, Nathan O’Keefe ($94k) at North Melbourne and comeback kid Austin Wonaeamirri ($138k) at Melbourne. Wheel Of Fortune fans (an oxymoron, surely) will argue that Wonaeamirri costs so much because of all those vowels, but the rest of us know it’s because he racked up some tasty scores in his rookie year of 2008. He’ll have to do better than the 47 he put up on Saturday night to convince us he’s worth the investment this time around, although neither Gunston nor O’Keefe made much of a case with 36 and 58 respectively. Outside of the forwards, we also witnessed the debut of St Kilda ruck Rhys Stanley, who looked okay in the pre-season but will be ostracised due to his position, and Sydney defender Campbell Heath. It was eventually finding Heath’s name at the end of this list of downgrade options that quelled the tears of that little boy. A definite bright spark amongst the muck, Heath is well regarded by the Sydney leadership group (at least, that’s what my research assistant Ossie tells me) and scored a promising 71 on debut against Fremantle. It’s not all good, however, with the Swans needing to find room for Shane Mumford and, at some point, Ben McGlynn and Craig Bird. Plus there’s the blokes demanding a call-up from below with 54-possession games (Matt O’Dwyer) and seven-goal efforts (Trent Dennis-Lane). Interesting times ahead at Sydney for us rookie watchers.

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